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POV: Equal Servings of Common Sense and Generosity

A plan to cook less, give more this Thanksgiving

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I have a two-step strategy that will help you cut some excess calories from your bountiful Thanksgiving this week and make you feel even better about yourself when you sit down to your dinner.

Step one: resist the self-stressing compulsion to cook enough food to feed a small country (you know who you are, and the rest of us scratch our heads over you hyperactive chefs).

Step two: redistribute those surplus calories from your plate to the plates of some needy folks.

Last week, I trekked with my 25 Boston University community nutrition students over to Boston Medical Center (BMC) for the annual class pilgrimage to visit the hospital’s very busy food pantry. The students deposited their food donations on an old cart outside the pantry, and then we all attempted to squeeze into that tiny food haven, about half the size of our classroom. As I glanced around the pantry, I noticed something missing from the shelves—food. The shelves were almost bare. The food pantry was a pantry without food. While I had bought two bags of food to donate, I wished I had toted a third.

Latchman Hiralall, manager of the food pantry, explained that “the pantry was designed to provide healthy foods to 500 individuals monthly, but averages over 7,000 users per month.” During the holidays, this number will exceed 8,000 a month. Hence, the shelves were bare. Hiralall  said that he would have to make an additional call to the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), his pantry’s number one food supplier, to restock the shelves.

The GBFB is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and among the largest food banks in the country. Last year, it distributed over 40 million pounds of food, enough to provide healthy meals to as many as 545,000 people. The GBFB acquires food through food industry product donations, food drives, and financial contributions that enable it to purchase additional high-nutrient, quality food at wholesale prices.

So here is my waist-trimming Thanksgiving strategy: since a typical Thanksgiving dinner serves up thousands of calories, consider making less turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and pies to cover your dinner table and fill your stomach, and donate the money saved to help those whose Thanksgiving isn’t so bountiful. Instead of buying a 20-pound turkey at $1 a pound, lug home a 15-pound bird and donate the $5 difference. Forgo either the sweet potato casserole or the mashed potatoes (how many spuds do you really need at one meal?) and donate the cost savings. Are a pumpkin pie, an apple pie, and the pie your aunt brings every year really necessary? Drop one from the menu and save about $10. All told, you will not only remove hundreds of tempting calories from your dinner and your waist, but your feel-good gesture will also brighten somebody else’s holiday.

Donate your savings here to the BMC Food Pantry or to the GBFB here. I promise you will feel lighter and happier on Thanksgiving.

Joan Salge Blake (SAR’84), a Sargent College clinical associate profesor, can be reached at salgeblake@comcast.net. Follow her on Twitter at @joansalgeblake.

“POV” is an opinion page that provides timely commentaries from students, faculty, and staff on a variety of issues: on-campus, local, state, national, or international. Anyone interested in submitting a piece, which should be about 700 words long, should contact Rich Barlow at barlowr@bu.edu.

3 Comments

3 Comments on POV: Equal Servings of Common Sense and Generosity

  • Alpha Phi Omega on 11.26.2013 at 5:51 am

    There are also many student organizations such as Alpha Phi Omega that go one step further and actually help cook and serve a Thanks Giving meal to those less fortunate than they. Sundays Bread for example puts on quite a feast for the homeless here in Boston and APO members have been known to help prepare and serve dinner through this wonderful organization over the years. Not only will you lose weight running around serving food to others but you will lift someone else’s spirit and your own in the process by doing a good dead this Thanks Giving.

  • Bu staffer on 11.26.2013 at 10:13 am

    This seemed like such a good idea I went online and donated, and found out how easy it was to donate the same amount every month. I plan to spread the word to my friends. Hope you’ll do the same! Thanks BU Today for this great call to action.

  • Alumnus on 12.02.2013 at 9:23 am

    The whole article is based on counter-factual rationale, which I fully endorse. However, if donating food for the less fortunate in a counter-factual method is the object, then the idea of donating to a food bank that then donates to the BMC sounds nothing short of extremely inefficient.
    1 pound of hungry rice destined for the horn or sub-saharan Africa is much cheaper than any pound of anything in Boston and will go much further in helping the less fortunate – and many more of them.
    So why do we donate to the GBFB when the same money can go so much further elsewhere? Well, because it’s close, we see the results first hand and it is more tangibly gratifying – even though it does much less good.
    Well, these reasons/excuses are not unlike the same ones one could use to justify the most glutinous of Thanksgiving meals.

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